The nearly-men of England head to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup full of confidence after a great Super League season in the UK with 70% of the squad playing in SL. The addition of Aussie-based players will always mean extra interest is on England games.
What To Expect
England seem to be firm favourites as the runners-up this time around. With an under-strength New Zealand squad, England will be looking to capitalise on this. Coach Wayne Bennett is not a favourite with fans so he will need to prove to them that they have what it takes to compete with Australia.
They will start off their campaign against Australia before facing Lebanon for the first time ever, followed by France. Expected to pick up two wins from this group to finish second, they will face the winners of Group C, meaning a quarter-final against PNG, Wales or Ireland.
Possibly a surprise addition to the squad, with Wayne Bennett overlooking Sam Tomkins and Jamie Shaul as well as the Zak Hardaker fiasco, in favour of the St Helens man. He is expected to be handed the number 1 jersey. With Ratchford as back-up, the 27-year-old will have a lot to prove to not only his coach but to the fans as well. His career in recent years has been decimated with injuries so it’s about time the guy had some luck go his way. Only having four caps for the national side under his belt means he is fairly inexperienced but with the likes of Hall and Watkins in the backline who have 52 England appearances between them, he will have lots of support around him.
With his impending move to St George-Illawara from the start of the 2018 season, all eye will be on the former St Helens man. The 32-year-old has a huge reputation in the NRL for being a stands-no-nonsense prop forward. He will be leading from the front as England’s most capped player (33) alongside captain Sean O’Loughlin. Having played in the NRL since 2012, he will have vital information about how to beat the Aussies in England’s World Cup opener in Melbourne.
How Far Will The Lions Go?
Judging by the other squads in the RLWC, it looks like England could be making their first final since 1995. Bennett has gone for a forward-heavy squad so the key factor is keeping all players fit because an injury to any player could change the whole dynamic of the on-field squad.
John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Kevin Brown (Warrington Wolves), Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ben Currie (Warrington Wolves), Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers), James Graham (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Heighington (Cronulla Sharks), Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves), Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders), Jonny Lomax (St Helens), Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants), Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors), Mark Percival (St Helens), Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves), James Roby (St Helens), Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Alex Walmsley (St Helens), Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos), Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders), Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons) George Williams (Wigan Warriors).